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Gerald O'brian

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Should we let homeopathy be?

The biggest dilemma for me is that placebo is proven to work better if the physician also believes he's giving real medecine. In this view, homeopathy is the perfect placebo. Even the people making it, through laborious dilutions, have GOT to believe in it, or their high school knowledge about chemistry would make it tempting to skip the whole process and make more profit selling sugar.
It's even got quantum mechanics watching its back, losing the more curious ones in complexe explanations about just how complexe liquid water is.
And of course, the idea is fun. Like cures like. 1/1000000th of a molecule of ethanol to cure a hangover.
Sure it's tempting to ridicule the whole industry for the billion dollar quackery it is. But one might actually find that it's saving a lot of healthcare money, and that it WORKS! And it works because we let it, because we don't ask for double-blind tests...
So what's your view on this? Is homeopathy a cheap way to heall the credulous? Or has it gone too far and is part of what makes the transition to the age of reason so darn slow?

thanks

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    Oct 25 2013: If homeopathy is a placebo and it works, then what's all the fuss about? If it helps cure people of certain ills through psychosomatic suggestion and belief, why should it be discounted just because it lies outside the realms of science?

    Doesn't the success rate of placebo actually suggest an ability to cure ourselves using our own innate physiological and psychological defences, partly obviating a dependence on pharmacology for minor ills?

    It depends whether you consider placebo to be a remarkable ability of human physiology to effect cure, or whether you dismiss it altogether as a sham illusion.

    Personally, I think it's remarkable and I'm open to all possibilities of such psychosomatic phenomena because it works too often and too effectively to ignore. It doesn't matter if it is homeopathy or double-blind dummy pills in pharmacology trials, it is still deserving of a lot more research - if modern science can just jettison some of its silly prejudices.
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      Oct 26 2013: If nothing else it would be an ethical problem. For traditional medicine there are clearly defined pathways how the medicine works, hence the patient can have a realistic expectation that his disease is treated.
      With a Placebo it's different. There is no clearly defined mechanism how it works and it's not even sure that it works at all.
      So, selling a placebo to a cancer patient instead of real medicine would be something highly unethical in my view.
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        Oct 26 2013: Hi Harald.

        Agree with you that life-threatening illnesses like cancer should not be left entirely to placebo, because the psychosomatic element of self-cure may work well in some people but not others.

        I agree also that placebo has no defined mechanism. But is that because such mechanisms remain unresearched due to medical science's reluctance to attach itself in any way to autosuggestion and the possibility of positive belief in the body's ability to heal itself?

        Although a nebulous area at present, I think placebo deserves to be moved from a vague new-age oddity to real science, for the simple reason that for many people, it works. That science is more likely to be within the realms of behavioural psychology, rather than analyses of what the constituents are in a homeopathic remedy. For such science to work, it would need to ally itself much more to the philosophical elements of human existence - and to stop dismissing it as 'pseudoscience'.

        We need to find all this out - and I for one want to know what is driving that mechanism of self-cure.
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          Oct 26 2013: What works in the case of a placebo is not the placebo but the mind. The placebo in this case is nothing more than an aid to get your own body to cure yourself.
          So, if that works, it means that the disease was psychosomatic in the first place which further means that with proper mental conditioning it would have been avoidable or if not avoided at least curable without the aid of a placebo.
          The concept of a placebo is not pseudoscience but a placebo is something that really shouldn't be necessary.
        • Oct 27 2013: I took my aging cat to a homeopathic vet. He has ordinary vet qualifications as well as going on to get homeopathic qualifications. Before homeopathic treatment my cat's heartbeat sounded like swish swish instaed of boom boom. The vet said this was hypertrophy (overgrowth ) of her heart. ONE MONTH LATER after only homeopathic treatment, her heartbeat was boom boom, although with a very slight underlying hiss. If this was acheived by placebo please explain to me how my vet's belief influenced my cat. I personally was not expecting the heartbeat to improve. So it wasn't my placebo effect on the cat. She had been conventionally treated previously with no effect. My trip to the homeopathic vet was TEETH (tried everything else, try homeopathy.)
        • Oct 27 2013: I love this type of testimonial Angela! Thanks for posting it. I have another:

          “Actium the Bird and His Lipoma

          Homeopathy works brilliantly for human health problems but did you know it works just at well for animals? The disappearing lipoma of Actium, my budgerigar is just one example. Take a look at his story and photographs – you’ll be amazed at what happened.”

          Source: http://homeopathyplus.com.au/actium-the-bird-and-his-lipoma/#sthash.bzsVUC3y.dpuf

          I personally treated my Black Labrador Retriever with homeopathic Silicea for a lipoma the size of a golf ball. No expensive surgery, stitches or antibiotics needed. And, there is no residual scar.
    • Oct 26 2013: I have my doubts about the effectiveness of placebos.
      The problem is, placebos oftentimes make people feel better in a mental sense, without actually being physically better.

      When conducting research, its oftentimes difficult to pin point precisely how well someone is. Some things, like blood pressure and temperature can be easily measured, but other parameters aren't so easy to quantify. In practice, what's often done is simply asking the test subject how well they feel over time. Say their physical condition is a 7, and without a placebo they report a 7; with a placebo, their physical condition may still well be a 7, but they report a 9, because they think they've gotten better.
      There are all sorts of problems testing this of course, which is why its hard to say precisely how effective placebos really are.

      Besides, conventional medicine can do placebos just fine. Some doctors have an ethical problem using them, but if anything, a doctor should have an easier time prescribing a believable placebo than a homeopath--most skeptics trust the doctor, for one.
      Of course, it'll only take as long as you'd need to google the medicine... Blind faith does have its advantages; life is so much simpler.
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        Oct 28 2013: The power of the mind is vastly underestimated in its ability to affect the body. It can go either way into a feedback spiral - upwards into wellness or downwards into illness, depending on the state of mind at the time.

        I get the mechanisms of placebo and nocebo effects, and can even accept the possibility that pet owner's placebo-inspired positivity can be transferred to their animals, but Angela (who doesn't have a 'reply' button) says that such transference did not exist with her pet during and after treatment. I'm afraid I'm stumped by that one.

        I'd like to believe that the actual constituents of homeopathic remedies are the things actually doing the curing of people and animals - but I have real problems in getting to grips with things like 'water memory' and dilutions equivalent to one pinch of salt added to the Atlantic Ocean. Can someone please explain?

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